Beachnuts Theatre Company is at it again in Tamarindo, this time with a production of “Scrooge,” set to hit the stage next weekend.
Founded in 2009 by Paul Belanger, a 30-year veteran of theater, comedy, dance and arts instruction from British Columbia, Canada, Beachnuts has presented a series of pantomime shows that take liberties with classics like “Cinderella,” “Peter Pan” and “Snow White” in this beach community on the northern Pacific coast.
Belanger, who moved to Tamarindo to fulfill a lifelong dream of retiring at the beach, says his idea to put together a theater company here was initially met with skepticism.
“People said, ‘You’ll never be able to do theater here because of the noncommittal nature of the people in the beach area. It’s difficult to put a schedule together with people who don’t know what day it is,’” Belanger recalled. “But I knew I just had to do one, and the rest would take over.”
That one was the 2009 production of “Cinderella,” starring 13-year-old Margo Wilson as the only actor in a role appropriate to her gender. The rest of the roles were men starring as women and women starring as men, in true pantomime fashion. The play featured eight actors, five of whom were kids. Belanger was the fairy godmother.
“Cinderella” was so successful that “people realized there could be high-end theater in Tamarindo,” Belanger said.
Next up was “Peter Pan,” starring 13-year-old August Beckwith and a cast of some 20 kids. The show was Beachnuts’ first at the 250-seat amphitheater at the Tamarindo Diria hotel.
“I learned that when working with kids, as long as you treat them with respect, they will treat you with respect back,” Belanger said. “There are no small roles, only small actors.”
One small breakout actor was discovered in “Peter Pan”: Annika Almquist, the 5-year-old who stole the show as Tinkerbell. She continues to play key roles in all Beachnuts productions, and even works with Belanger in the off-season.
In December 2010, Belanger was back in drag as the evil queen in “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.” Thirteen-year-old Morgana Van Peebles, daughter of actor Mario Van Peebles, joined the troupe for the show. Her father, coincidentally, got his acting start on the stage also. It was clear from Morgana’s performance as Snow White that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
Earlier this year, “The Wizard of Oz” was the first Beachnuts show to sell out 750 seats, and was standing room only. Starring Koral Kis, 13, the show had a cast of 40, mostly children, wearing remarkable costumes made by Kata Kis of Papaya Con Leche boutique in Tamarindo, who has handled costumes for all of Beachnuts’ shows.
So, expectations are high for “Scrooge.” Belanger will be dressed as a “bombacious, loud, singing female who isn’t in the original ‘Scrooge.’ She helps with the narration,” he said. However, there will be the traditional three ghosts. Country Day School Guanacaste teacher Scott Mullen will play Scrooge, and Kristi and Darwin Akin will provide live music.
“As always, the production has audience participation,” Belanger said. “Remember, if you are in the audience, you are in the show.”
Performances are Nov. 24-26 at 7 p.m. at the Tamarindo Diria amphitheater. Tickets cost $15 ($10 for kids 12 and under) and are available at Jaime Peligro bookstore in Tamarindo and at Café Mocha at Plaza Paseo del Mar on the Huacas-Brasilito road. The Tamarindo Diria is offering a special Thanksgiving dinner on Nov. 24 before the show; for price and reservations, call 2653-0032.
For more information about Beachnuts Theatre Company, visit www.beachnutstheatre.org.